Community

America’s Most Transformed Neighborhoods

via FORBES

Lower Manhattan hasn’t just rebounded (despite 2008’s financial meltdown), it has been utterly transformed.  READ MORE >>>

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Meet a Lower Manhattan Business: Shake Shack

via Downtown Alliance/Lower Manhattan Diary

Shake Shack has opened in Lower Manhattan!

Shake Shack’s reputation was undeniably established following the success of its original Madison Square Park location.  Since then, quite a few locations have sprouted up throughout the city, and Danny Meyer has just opened his latest venture in Battery Park City. READ MORE …

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Organization’s mission redefines friendship

via Downtown Express

BY HELAINA N. HOVITZ  |  Just one year after Myra Ianakieva, 8, was diagnosed with leukemia, her father lost his three-year battle with Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Paige Paterson, flanked by father-and-son honorees Gene Kurzrok and Howard Kurzrok at the 2010 fundraiser for Friends of Karen. This year Paterson was honored for her volunteer work with the organization. Photo courtesy of Friends of Karen Michelle

Fighting to remain strong for her sick daughter while mourning the loss of her husband, Myra’s mother, Elena, also had to figure out how she was going to put food on the table and handle all of the medical expenses on her own. Thanks to Friends of Karen, she didn’t have to worry — and the organization offered her much more than money.

In addition to financial support, Friends of Karen, a 33-year-old New York nonprofit, provides long-term emotional support for families coping with a child’s life-threatening illness.

Last Tuesday, over 300 “friends” flocked to a rooftop at 2 Desbrosses Street in Tribeca to celebrate Myra’s good health and to raise funds so more families can benefit from the organization’s mission.

“When a child has cancer, it’s too big for any family to handle on their own,” said Nancy Mariano, regional director of the program. “Nobody is prepared to navigate the world of childhood cancer.”

What makes Friends of Karen unique is its focus on full-family support for as long as it is needed. Along with providing financial assistance for illness-related expenses as well as rent, utility and car payments, the organization offers emotional support for the whole family through counseling and art therapy. If the sick child does not make it, Friends of Karen helps the family through the grieving process and with funeral arrangements and continues to support the family on an as-needed basis.

“Other organizations are short term and focus solely on the child, but we’re here for the whole family for as long as they need us,” said Executive Director Judith Factor.

When parents become overwhelmed, siblings inadvertently become “forgotten,” even though they, too, have special needs. Friends of Karen’s Sibling Support Program helps children cope with the changes that take place when their brother or sister falls critically ill. Expressive art therapies, including painting, music, dance and drama, enable the child to identify feelings and fears and find effective ways to cope.

Michelle Paige Paterson was honored at the ceremony for her decade-long work with EmblemHealth, but was stuck at home sick.

Her husband, former governor David Paterson, accepted the award on her behalf, and was grateful for the opportunity to learn more about the organization. He was especially impressed with the Sibling Support Program.

“When I was 11 years old, my brother was hit by a motorcycle and fell into a coma. His recovery was long and brutal,” Paterson explained. “I still get chills when I think about it.”

Also in attendance was Priscilla Goma, 32, a former child in the program diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma at age nine. She fondly remembers how programs like Holiday Adopt-A-Family helped provide presents for Christmas and food on Thanksgiving.

“We wouldn’t have been able to afford it without their help,” said Goma, who currently volunteers for Friends of Karen mentoring sick children and teenagers.

Myra finished three years of treatment in February and is now cancer-free. She made sure to thank Jessica Dunn, her family’s social worker, for her continued support.

“Thank you for taking care of me, bringing me presents, and playing with me,” Myra said. “And for talking to me about everything.”

Myra’s mother added that Jess’s advocacy had been “priceless.”

“There’s nothing Jess wouldn’t help us with, from health coverage to electric bills,” said Elena. “She is one of the most important people in our life.”

There to close out the ceremony was former American Idol contestant Robby Rosen, 17, who sang Myra an original song called “Make It Through.”

Friends of Karen was founded in 1978 by Sheila Petersen, a concerned neighbor who rallied community support for Karen MacInnes, 16, when she was diagnosed with Lafora’s disease, a rare genetic illness. Friends of Karen has helped thousands of terminally ill children and their families, 60 percent of which live in the city’s five boroughs, and currently provides support for 260 children in active treatment.

“We help keep families together and emotionally stable,” said Rhonda Ryan, who has been a social worker with the organization for over 20 years. “Whether the child lives or dies, 99 percent of families are survivors.”

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Downtown Toy Store Fights Eviction from World Financial Center

Karen Barwick, owner of Boomerang Toys, is fighting the eviction of her World Financial Center shop. (Photo courtesy of DNAinfo)

By Julie Shapiro, DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

Karen Barwick isn’t giving up on Boomerang Toys without a fight.
Barwick started a petition this week to save her beloved toy shop’s World Financial Center location, which is facing eviction this fall.

“We really want to stay here,” said Barwick, 39, a Battery Park City resident. “So many customers stop me on the street and say they can’t believe we’re leaving.”

Brookfield Properties, which owns the World Financial Center, is booting Boomerang and several other businesses south of the Winter Garden as part of a $250 million redevelopment that aims to attract 40 high-end fashion retailers and create a 25,000-square-foot fresh food marketplace.

Brookfield recently notified Boomerang Toys, along with Urban Athletics, SouthWest NY, Ciao Bella and others, that they have to leave their current spaces by the end of September.

Read more from DNAinfo.

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Battery Park City Authority Rejects Otterness Sculptures for Library

by JESSICA TERRELL
Tribeca Tribune

The Battery Park City Authority is saying “thanks, but no thanks” to the anonymous donation of a set of Tom Otterness lion sculptures valued at $750,000, much to the chagrin of the artist’s supporters on Community Board 1.

“I think this is crazy, absolutely crazy,” CB1 board member Tom Goodkind said. “For God’s sake, it’s free.”

The BPCA said it was declining to accept the artist’s offer, the creation of two five-foot bronze lions and five small cubs to go in front of the library on North End Avenue. A sixth cub would have been placed inside the building. The Authority says it is rejecting the offer because the donor is anonymous and because the proposal did not follow procedures for vetting artwork and allowing public competition.

CB1 had previously voted its support of the installation, and on Tuesday its Battery Park City Committee voted to request more information from the Authority about the proper process for commissioning a new site-specific piece of art. But it appears unlikely that Otterness’ lion and cubs will make it to the library.

Read more from the Tribeca Tribune.

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Sugarcane Cafeteria Trays Help Battery Park City School Go Green

P.S. 89 parents and students on the "Green Team" celebrated their awards from the Department of Sanitation on Tuesday. (Photo courtesy of Julie Shapiro & DNAinfo)


By Julie Shapiro
DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

A Battery Park City elementary school won top honors this week for using cafeteria trays made out of sugarcane rather than Styrofoam.

P.S. 89 earned a citywide elementary Golden Apple award from the Department of Sanitation and a Golden Shovel from the department’s NYC Compost Project after cutting its lunchtime trash output by more than half in just the last few months.

“We could see how dedicated your school was to reduce, reuse, recycle and to composting,” Carey Pulverman, a manager for the NYC Compost Project, told the students at a ceremony Tuesday afternoon.

“A lot of you changed your daily habits here in the lunchroom, and we’ve been very impressed by that.”

P.S. 89’s parent-led “Green Team” spearheaded the switch from Styrofoam trays to biodegradable trays made of sugarcane, starch and wood pulp earlier this year after becoming concerned about the school’s trash output, said Diana Biagioli, a P.S. 89 parent.

The PTA pays the extra two cents it costs to purchase each environmentally friendly tray and is working with Holton Farms in Vermont to compost them after they’re used. The school goes through about 350 to 400 trays per day, Biagioli said.

Rather than dumping everything, including the trays, into the trash after lunch, P.S. 89 students now carefully remove any leftover food from their trays and stack them on a table. They also pour out their extra milk and recycle the cardboard cartons.

Parent volunteers are on hand every day to supervise the process — but most students know the routine and say they didn’t mind the extra steps.

“If we don’t take care of our planet, it will become a big dump,” said 7-year-old Himani Sirsi, who lives in Battery Park City. “The Styrofoam trays release toxic gases, and they’re bad for the planet.”

Since switching to sugarcane trays in February, P.S. 89 has reduced its lunchtime trash output from eight to 12 bags of garbage a day to just four, parents said.

Michelle Lee, 7, a Battery Park City resident, said that after learning about the environment in school, she often reminds her parents to recycle at home, and now she hopes to spread the lesson to other schools as well.

“If every school in the universe does this, it’ll be happier [for] the planet,” she said.

See more from DNAinfo.

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BPC Community Garden Takes Root, Again

Battery Park City’s Liberty Community Garden is planted next to West Street, an eight-lane highway. (Photo courtesy of Downtown Express & Terese Loeb Kreuzer)

by Terese Loeb Kreuzer
Downtown Express

Flooded with sunlight, Battery Park City’s Liberty Community Garden, just south of Albany Street at the edge of Route 9A, is a mosaic of color and homey touches. There are currently 38 plots with around 60 gardeners (the larger plots are shared). One person has erected a trellis with a wooden sign that reads, “Welcome to my garden.” Several plots have birdbaths and decorative stones and bricks demarcate the flower and vegetable patches in others.

It has been just a little over a year since the garden was moved to its present location from a space near the intersection of Rector Place and West Street. West Thames Park and its playground now occupy the garden’s former space.

Liberty Community Garden has a history as rich as the compost that nourishes its organically tended plants.

“The gardens were started in the1980s, as a way to provide [Battery Park City] residents with a chance to ‘get their hands dirty’ and commune with nature,” said Michael McCormack, one of the garden’s five directors and an attorney by profession. “We are lucky to benefit from the support of, and horticultural guidance of the Battery Park City Parks Conservancy.”

Luck was not always on the side of the gardeners, however. After the Sept. 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center, the garden, which was then south of its present site, was knee-deep in debris. A newspaper account of that time quoted McCormack as saying, “I came out to look at my garden and everything was coated with three to four inches of gray dust.”

The plots closest to the World Trade Center were completely destroyed. A more southerly section was salvaged. Gardeners from the Battery Park City Parks Conservancy removed ash from the plants by hand.

Compost was needed but composting supplies had been decimated. In a gesture that is still remembered by the Battery Park City gardeners with great emotion, gardeners from Seattle, Wash. made compost from a million flowers that had been left at a vigil for those who died on 9/11 and transported the compost to Battery Park City. In September 2002, the Liberty Community Garden was rededicated with two Seattle City Council members in attendance along with gardeners from both cities.

Several times thereafter, the gardeners had to move. “Our former location was taken over for the ‘temporary’ Rector Place bridge,” McCormack recalled. (That bridge is still there, well past the time when it was slated to come down.) Fortunately, the Board of Managers of 200 Rector Place offered the gardeners the use of some land next to their building. Then, in October 2009, the gardeners had to pack up their plants and move them again to make way for the playground.

The New York State Department of Transportation held the plants over the winter until they could be moved again to their current home.

“The new gardens are wonderful,” said McCormack. “The sunlight is better, the soil is perfect, and the pathways are lined with stone chips, which have proven better at weed control than woodchips, and are easier on the knees. More sun means a much greater variety of plants can be grown, and many gardeners have increased the number and variety of vegetables they grow…A wider variety of flowers can be grown as well. The new gardens are more visible to visitors and the community, and it is rare that passer-bys don’t stop and chat with gardeners.”

The community within the garden has also flourished. Last summer, Miriam Kimmelman, one of the directors of the garden, was quite ill. “Alison [Simko] quietly put out the word,” Kimmelman recalled. “My plot was regularly watered, weeded and even enhanced with some new plantings. I didn’t get over to look at the plot until October, when I could walk that far.”

One of Kimmelman’s friends from the garden even planted tulip bulbs and crocuses to surprise her in the spring.

McCormack said that once the “temporary” bridge at Rector Place comes down, there would be another 20 plots. That isn’t likely to happen any time soon, but in the meantime, for various reasons, there is some turnover.

Read more from Downtown Express.

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Shake Shack Opens in Battery Park City

The Shake Shack at 215 Murray St. will be open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. (Photo courtesy of DNAinfo.com)

By Julie Shapiro
DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

Get ready, ShackBurger fans.

Downtown’s much-anticipated Shake Shack opened this Wednesday in Battery Park City, the popular chain announced on Tuesday.

“We’re excited to have a location in this neighborhood,” said Jon Vandergrift, director of New York operations for Shake Shack, as workers put the finishing touches on the restaurant Tuesday morning. “It’s an up-and-coming area — we’re excited to be part of the redevelopment.”

The Battery Park City outpost, on Murray Street, features all the traditional menu items that made Shake Shack famous, including burgers dripping with the house-made ShackSauce, but it also offers three special “concretes,” or frozen custards, that can’t be found anywhere else.

The “Wall-nut Street” contains vanilla custard, cookie dough, walnuts and cherries; the “Lower West Side” has chocolate custard, malted marshmallow and cocoa nibs; and the “Downtown Butter Brown” serves up vanilla custard mixed with hazelnut brown butter streusel and seasonal fruit.

Read more about the Grand Opening from DNAinfo.

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Battery Park City Entrepreneur Spotlight

Battery Park City resident Roberta Souza, 30, already is an owner of two restaurants on Pearl Street and just opened another restaurant at 23rd Street and Third Avenue. Souza, who was born to a single mother in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, came to New York at the age of 17. Her mother, Antonia, a chef, had preceded her here.

“The first thing I did was go to school to learn English,” said Souza. She also got a job as a coat checker at a midtown restaurant called Giovanni’s. Next she enrolled at Borough of Manhattan Community College, where she studied business management. During college, she continued to work as a coat checker, this time at Beckett’s in the Financial District.

Ronan Downs, who owns Beckett’s, “believed in me,” said Souza. He kept promoting her. By the time she was 25, she was managing another of Downs’ restaurants, the Stone Street Tavern. At 26, in partnership with Downs and Alex Ramirez, she opened her own restaurant, Burger Burger, at 77 Pearl St.

At the time, Goldman Sachs’ headquarters was right across the street, and Souza said that Burger Burger was an instant success. Next came Pizza Pizza, also on Pearl Street.

In March, Souza in partnership with Downs and with the owners of Mad Dog and Beans, also on Pearl Street, opened Tap Room 307, which serves 42 kinds of draft beer from all over the world. “My life is work,” Souza said, but she seems to relish it.

“I’m trying to create an empire!” she said. She wasn’t kidding.

Burger Burger and Pizza Pizza are open daily. They deliver. For details and menus, go to www.burgerburgerny.com and www.pizzapizzanyc.com

Read more from Downtown Express.

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World Financial Center Dishes Up Three Lunchtime Food Events

A sandwich from Quality Burger, which reopened Thursday on the World Financial Center plaza.


By Julie Shapiro
DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

The World Financial Center had three separate lunchtime culinary events on Thursday.

From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., the EAT World Financial Center Restaurant showcased more than a dozen of the building’s eateries in the Winter Garden, each selling tastes of their signature dishes for $5 or less.

The Grill Room offered a shrimp and vegetable stir-fry for $5, SouthWest NY will dish out pulled-pork sliders, two for $5, and Devon & Blakely sold a blackened chicken sandwich for $4. For dessert, Financier Patisserie offered a black and white mousse cake for $3, while Godiva Chocolatier will sell two chocolate-dipped strawberries for $5.

Thursday also marked the return of Ed’s Lobster Bar and Quality Burger, the food kiosks by the North Cove Marina that drew long lines when they debuted last summer.

This year, Ed’s will bring back its $15 lobster roll, $6 grilled shrimp skewers and $2 grilled corn on the cob, while Quality Burger will offer freshly seared cheeseburgers for $5.25 and loaded-up chilidogs for $3.75.

Within the next couple of weeks, a third kiosk will open: Fatty ‘Cue, an outpost of the popular Williamsburg barbecue joint by the same name.

Read more from DNAinfo.

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